WarnerMedia recently announced that all their upcoming movies will release online on HBO Max at the same time as in theaters. The news sent shockwaves across Hollywood, and several major filmmakers publicly and bitterly lambasted Warner's decision. Now, Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra has revealed in an interview with CNBC that Warner Bros.' new release streaming strategy has made filmmakers more interested in working with Sony.
"After the Warner Bros. announcement, it's been a bit of a boom for us because it's made dating our movies next year somewhat easier. But the real benefit has been the number of incoming calls from talent, creators, actors, and directors to us saying, 'We want to be doing business with you because we know you're a theatrical distributor and producer.' That has worked very well for us."
In today's day and age, when streaming has officially taken over as the primary mode of consumption of new content, it might seem odd to have Warner's decision meet with so much anger. But for many filmmakers, theaters still represent the zenith of the movie-watching experience. Such filmmakers, from Christopher Nolan to Denis Villeneuve, to Patty Jenkins, have publicly stated their opposition to having their films streamed directly online.
Warner's production partners are also not happy since the box office is where films make the most money. One of Warner's partners, Legendary Entertainment, was ready to take the studio to court over the news that Godzilla vs. Kong, which was primarily financed by Legendary, was also being sent directly to HBO Max by Warner.
While the entertainment industry is always slow to change and adapt, the truth is, 2020 has forced the issue of streaming vs. theatrical on to the studios. Cinema halls the world over are not expected to be operating at regular capacity until at least the end of 2021. In the meantime, studios are losing money, and online streaming offers the only way to make money off new content via PVOD or through paying subscribers.
For the time being, while Sony is committed to offering a theatrical release window in which their films are shown exclusively in theaters, Vinciquerra explained that the duration of that window is subject to change depending on whether a movie is deemed to be more suited to the big screen or the small screen.
"We're not changing course to any big degree. We do think windows will become much more flexible and we're thankful for that. We think that's good for the industry and a good thing for our films. Some movies will do better with a short window and some movies will do better with a much longer window. Big budget films require the windows that are in the flow now and we will continue with that. Every film released will have an individual negotiation with the exhibitors. We think 30-day windows are probably the best."
While Warner has so far stood by its decision, recently releasing Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max at the same time as in theaters, it remains to be seen whether the continued pressure from its business and creative partners will finally force the studio to cave in to their demands. This news originated at The Verge.